💬 In this issue:
- The sweet spot: Branding is important, but not at the expense of product quality
- Investing in branding from the jump: The brand experience balancing act
A few weeks ago, an Africa-focused remittance company changed its name, much to the chagrin of its customers. While it was part of what the company called a brand overhaul, it allowed me to see how much its customers love the brand. In a crowded market like remittance—cue that joke about how if you shake a tree, an African-focused remittance company will fall out of it—a 2-year-old startup built a brand that resonated with customers. Naturally, I asked myself: is this validation that pre-seed stage startups should worry about and invest in branding from the jump? - Olumuyiwa
💡 My use of ‘branding’ transcends mission, vision and goals. As this article says, “Having a mission, vision and values written down is not wrong. At the end of the day, well-defined brands have those. But more important than the artefacts is the substance; however, you decide to make it clear to your audiences.”
It’s a crucial clarification because when the discussion about branding for early-stage startups comes up, it’s easy to imagine a 6-figure line item from a marketing or PR agency–not that there’s any problem with those. But if you’re an early-stage startup, the odds are that it’s not a good idea to write that cheque for a fancy marketing agency. What should you do instead?
🌍 In conversations with early-stage founders and marketers at early-stage companies, I found some of their perspectives on branding fascinating and sometimes counterintuitive.
My first takeaway from those conversations is stupidly simple: the best brand experience you can provide, if you’re super-early, is ensuring the product works. One founder whose startup has changed its name twice told me that having fretted about name and logo changes, he now thinks about branding differently. “It took us 50 iterations to get to our present name, and it had to grow on us! But my key learning over the years is that a brand is built after you’re successful. If you have a boring logo but awesome service, people will connect your company with a positive experience anyway.”
Branding is important but when money is tight, make sure the product works!
Another brand manager, who put it more humorously, says that “branding is a first-world problem.” He argues that sometimes a hyper-focus on building a cool brand is how B2C companies fall into the trap of speaking to the 1% even when the product or service is for customers at the middle of the pyramid. “It’s Maslow’s hierarchy. For the customers at the middle or bottom of the pyramid, your brand experience is a product that does what it says,” the brand manager says.
🍭 The sweet spot
Ultimately, it’s not a binary argument, and these founders know that a strong corporate identity drives loyalty. But in their mind’s eye, the aspects of branding to obsess over very early as you grow your business are simple: ensuring your product works, clearly defining your product’s promise to your target audience, and continuing to convince investors that no one has the grasp of the market problem like you.
Let’s move on to a quick throwaway before we wrap this up. 👀
🇳🇬 A busy month for Nigeria leaves investors cautiously optimistic
After contentious elections in February, it was clear that whoever became Nigeria’s next president would have much to do to regain investor confidence. A controversial fuel subsidy policy has been scrapped, and a multiple-exchange rate regime, which encouraged uncertainty, seems next to go.
These are early days, but Nigeria’s stock market is responding positively, with a recent market rally. Africa’s giant still has much to do to woo investors, but this isn’t the worst start. 💡
📚 What we've been reading
- This article that’s rich in data points: What lies ahead for Nigeria’s consumer goods giants?
- Why branding brings so much opportunity to early-stage companies
- What does the downturn mean for investor-founder relationships?
🔫 Parting shot
What's on your mind? Drop us a note via firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know. Or, tag us on social using #africanpreseed or #APSVibeCheck.
That's it for now. See you next month! — Olumuyiwa